A non-profit organization dedicated to education with regard to the culture and use of herbs
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 MHS 2015 Herb of the Year   
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MHS Herb of the Year
- Sage

Sage: More Than Just a Thanksgiving Herb!

By Bonnie Kulke, Joyce Pohl, and Carrie Wilkey

History and Folklore of Sage

Sage is known and used throughout the world for culinary, medicinal, and crafting purposes. The Latin name, Salvia, means “to be saved” or “to heal.” It was believed to improve memory and bestow wisdom and long life.

Sage is native to the Mediterranean region, but is thought to have been traveled throughout Europe in the backpacks of Roman legionnaires.

In medieval Italy, peasants ate sage to preserve health. And Arab lore taught that, if sage grows well in your garden, you will live a long life. Eastern European gypsies believe that sage helps attract good luck and deter evil.

Sage is a very popular herb in France, though less for cuisine than for perfumes, medicines, and other uses. As in English, “sage” also means “wise” in French. In some areas of France, sage is planted on graves to assuage grief. Folk wisdom also taught that sage could bring immortality. Charlemagne recommended the plant for cultivation in the early Middle Ages, and it was grown in monastery gardens.

In England, herbalist John Gerard mentioned sage in 1597 as well-known in English gardens, with several varieties growing in his own. Some herbalists prescribed sage leaves as a cure for ague (shivering fevers): chew for nine consecutive mornings, while fasting.

Herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote, “Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints whether inwardly or outwardly.”

Victorian brides tucked sprigs of sage in their wedding bouquets to symbolize good health, domestic bliss, and wisdom. Victorians used sage to symbolize long life and good health in tussie mussies and boutonnieres.

In ancient China, sage was so revered for tea that the Chinese were willing to trade their own green tea for it, in a 4-to-1 ratio!

European colonists introduced sage to North America, where it was widely used by folk healers to treat insomnia, epilepsy, measles, seasickness, and intestinal worms. In the Language of Flowers, sage symbolizes domestic virtue and good health.

Overview and Varieties of Sage

How to Grow Sage

Harvesting and Preserving Sage

Cooking with Sage

Household, Cosmetic, and Garden Uses of Sage

Medicinal Uses of Sage




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2012-13 - Basil
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2011 - Mint
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2010 - Dill
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2009 - Bay Laurel
Laurus nobilus

2008 - Scented Geraniums and Edible Flowers
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2007 - Herbs de Provence
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Lavender - In Your Kitchen and Throughout Your Home

2006 - Rosemary
For centuries, rosemary has been used as a symbol of friendship, love, loyalty, and remembrance.

2005 - Oregano/Marjoram
There are 36 different species of Origonum, which includes many fragrant and ornamental herbs.

2004 - Lemon Herbs
For the 2004 Madison Herb Society Herb of the Year, we’re revisiting Lemon Herbs. There are many and they come from a variety of herb families.

 2003 - The Alliums
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Garlic - a culinary favorite, growing and harvesting garlic
Chives - an overview of this tastyherb

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